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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-10-2015, 11:33 PM Thread Starter
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Default Buying First Router Bits

I am probably going to buy a router in the next few days. I've pretty well decided on the Bosch 1617EVS combo set, based on the great reviews I've seen on this site.

I'll be using my router only for occasional do-it-yourself projects or minor repair work. I am not a carpenter or an expert woodworker by any stretch.

I need help choosing a starter set of carbide bits that isn't too expensive but also not cheaply made. I've seen a 30-piece Skil set at Lowes for around $99. I believe it's a 1/4-inch shank set. Is there a 1/2-inch set that's better made and/or a better value - even if it has fewer bits? Any feedback is appreciated.

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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-10-2015, 11:44 PM
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Hi, John; welcome!
The short answer is yes.
Go with the 1/2" shanks for sure. Nice choice with the Bosch 1617EVSPK.
Check out Lee Valley...
Boxed Set of 12 Router Bits - Lee Valley Tools
Basic Router Router Bit Set - Includes 1058 - 1067 - 2405 - 1804 - 1901 - 2008 - 2305 1/2" shank
Freud 91-108 9 Piece Basic Router Bit Set | Rockler Woodworking & Hardware
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post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-11-2015, 12:13 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you very much, Danin Van. That helps tremendously. I had looked at that Freud set, but am not familiar with the other two. Thanks again.
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post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-11-2015, 12:21 AM
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You'd be happy with any of those, John.
If you live in a larger city, find out where the tool suppliers are...most have websites... and keep your eye out for router bit sales. That can stretch your tool budget tremendously.
Establishing a personal relationship with a not-big-box outlet may also work for you. I've been buying from one particular sales guy for a long time...he regularly discounts pretty much everything I buy by at least 10%. That's not huge, but it keeps me coming back, and he knows it.
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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-11-2015, 02:57 AM
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Hi John. Welcome to the forum.

I am no expert but I will share what little I know plus offer my opinion. Generally, bits with 1/4" shanks are used for hand held routing and the 1/2" shanks are used in router tables. So much depends on whether you will be taking your router to your work or taking your work to the router table. Generally, for sign making you would use a smaller lighter weight router with a 1/4" collet. Only you can make your best prediction.

As for me, I decided to buy some sets of router bits. Many will suggest that you buy only the bits you need. I take the more expensive shotgun approach and have available to me a wider variety of bits to try thus giving me more experience with a variety of bits. I purchase medium priced sets to gain this experience. Then as I use the bits, I see which ones I use the most and then I will purchase the more expensive bit of that model. This is how I build my collection. Everyone has their own style. You will choose your personal style also as you start out.

Now, for medium (not cheap) router bits I have purchased the Yonico brand (among others). You can start out with whatever size set you feel comfortable with. Look at the profiles and consider their use before you buy. For example, they sell a 50 bit set for $115. Type in the coupon “5off” and get $5 off at checkout. Here is their website:

Router Bit Sets :: Large Sets :: 50 Bits Professional Quality Router Bit Set C3 Carbide 1/2" Shank Yonico 17502

They are a relatively young manufacturer and I decided to take a chance with them. Reviews are mixed but it serves my purpose.

Now, when replacing them or right from the start however you decide, some excellent router bit manufacturers are Whiteside, Amana, Freud and Eagle America. I also own bits from each of those manufacturers and they are all excellent but a bit more pricey.

Stay away from cheap bits, Harbor Freight. Woodworkers spend booga bucks on table saws, routers, router tables, etc. but then skimp on where the metal (carbide) meets the wood. Buy quality saw blades and router bits. Sharp bits will provide satisfying results while mediocre blades and bits will not. They also present safety issues.

So John, like each of us starting out, you must make some decisions on how you want to approach this, namely buy what you need when you need it or buy into sets to increase your exposure to a wider variety of bits in less time. Then when you do buy the more expensive quality bits, you will know why and be able to do so with confidence. You also will not be spending money on expensive bits that you will rarely use.

Do not buy cheap. For your long term quality bits, stick with Whiteside, Amana, Freud and Eagle America. Many folks like Bosch, CMT, MCLS, Rockler and others.

Customer service means a lot also.

Hope this helps.

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post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-11-2015, 07:10 AM
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I can see the merits of both large sets and buying individual bits, but I come down on the 'fewer bits' side. I still have router bits I bought 25 years ago in a set that have not been used yet.

I would personally start with a 1/2" straight cutter, 1/2" flush trim, 3/8" roundover, and then add on from there. Avoid the 1/4" shank bits at first, because new users tend to over feed the router, and that puts a lot of stress on the bit. I have broken a couple of bits, it's not fun.

If you want a reasonable quality set that won't break the bank, but still cuts nice, check out the PURPLE Grizzly router bits. These have proven in my experience to be better than their green ones.® --

You are going to ruin a few bits as you learn, better to make it the 'Chevy' instead of the 'Cadillac'.

The link below has a few videos on how to clean and hone router bits, that can make even the cheaper bits cut a little better. Nothing worse than getting frustrated by lousy tools before you even get started. <<<you can skip sections 1-4 and 10>>>

Legacy Woodworking

Make sure you have a safe routing experience, read the manual, watch youtube videos from bit makers and router manufacturers, know proper feed direction, you'll be amazed what the tool can do!

1 John 1:9
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Last edited by kp91; 03-11-2015 at 07:13 AM.
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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-11-2015, 08:26 AM
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I'm with Doug on this but I'm partial to Freud bits

I don’t always insulate , but when I do .
Ok ,I never insulate
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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-11-2015, 08:36 AM
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I used a router for the first time about 2 or 3 years ago. All I did with it was rounding some edges. For simple stuff like that a 1/4" bit is just fine. From the modest amount I've done since it seems that 1/4" works ok for softer wood as well. But when I got to doing some oak (or other hard woods) or using bits with any complexity (more and deeper surface contact) that's when I had to upgrade to 1/2" bits. It was a must.
The heftier bits, with a hefty router, avoid the problems of burning the wood and wearing out the motor.
Think of it this way: Underrate your components for the most efficient operation and longest life.
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post #9 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-11-2015, 10:18 AM
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You will likely find that there is not a significant price difference between 1/4 shank bits and 1/2 shank bits, so my inclination would be to go for 1/2 inch bits for strength. The big advantage to 1/2 inch bits is that if you ever decide to take on something like raised panel doors you will have the bits and router that has the capability to do them. [After many years of playing with wood I finally took on raised panel doors last year.] If you are leaning toward a set of bits you could start with an inexpensive carbide tipped set, and over time you will figure out which bits you use most. As the inexpensive bits, that you use a lot wear or break, you can replace them with higher quality bits. Buying a set, even though some may never get used, is generally far less expensive than buying individual bits as you go along. I will add, at this time, that even though my carbide bits are all from inexpensive sets, with the odd individually purchased bit, I have only had one failure so far, and that was the pilot bearing coming apart on one of my 1/2 inch bits that got used a lot. Another member suggested that a drop of oil applied to the pilot bearing before each use would help eliminate this, so I have adopted this procedure.

Have fun with your routing.

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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old 03-11-2015, 11:28 AM
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+ 1 for DanInVan's choice of sets. Half inch is always my first choice, but I do have a couple of quarter inch for use in a smaller Colt router. Rarely use them. Quarter round bits from 1/4 to 3/4 are probably what you'll use first. Good choice on the router. I have two at this time, second is just a motor. But 1 will do nicely for just about everything you do freehand and plunge. The freehand base can also be used under a table. Go to it. Use some knot free pine to start out with so you can get a feel for it.

Safety wise, a couple of items. Don't put the bit all the way to the bottom of the collet, it will cause chatter and extra stress on the bit. Use small bits only freehand, Bits larger than 1 1/2 inch across should be used in a table. Speed counts. The larger the bit, the slower the speed. Bosch provides a guide to speed and bit size in their manual and you can find charts online. Take small amounts of wood off each pass, I keep it to no more than 1/8th inch, with a final very thin "shave" cut to produce a baby butt smooth finish. Finally, NEVER lift the router off the workpiece while the bit is still turning--wait til it stops completely. Lifting can ruin the workpiece in a instant.

Have fun with this. You can do a lot with a router. I suggest you order a copy of Bill Hylton's book, "Woodworking with the Router," the best information I've found on getting the most from this great tool. You can get it used or new on Amazon.
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